Art is Gold, A Tribute to Fay Gold will take place on Tues., Sept. 19 at the Woodruff Art Center Galleria. Provided.

The Woodruff Art Center’s Galleria is gearing up for a gilded transformation. On Sept, 19, they will present “Art is Gold: A Tribute to Fay Gold.” This black-tie event will be the first fundraiser for National Jewish Health in Atlanta and will benefit the Fay Gold Respiratory Research Fund. 

Based in Denver, CO, National Jewish Health is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of patients with respiratory, cardiac, immune, and related disorders. And for celebrated Atlanta gallerist Fay Gold, the organization holds a special significance: it saved her friend’s life.

When Anita Thomas fell ill in 2010 after extensive time spent working in her garden, she initially didn’t think much of it. However, soon she developed a fever and it was suspected that she had developed a lung infection called Lady Windermere’s Syndrome (LW). “Most days I could not raise my head from my pillow, and I suffered a high fever,” she wrote. 

Anita Thomas and Fay Gold. Provided.

Over time her condition continued to deteriorate and she was growing desperate for help. That’s when her friend Gold recommended that she contact National Jewish Health, an academic hospital that Gold had been supporting since its early days in the 1950s. Gold had actually co-chaired one of the organization’s early fundraisers in New York City, and has been a proponent of the facility ever since. 

And so, on her friend’s recommendation, Thomas traveled back and forth to the hospital in Denver and was eventually cured. Thomas and her husband Michael were invited to chair the Gala celebrating Gold’s legacy as both an art icon and endlessly generous philanthropist Fay Gold. 

“National Jewish Health is renowned for their excellent patient care and groundbreaking scientific discoveries in the fields of respiratory, cardiac, immune and other related disorders,” said Gold in a statement about the event. “I was overwhelmed after learning the gift of this evening will benefit the Fay Gold Respiratory Research Fund at National Jewish Health, which will focus on conditions such as the one Anita experienced.”

Since she was in her 20s, Gold has been trailblazing for fine arts in Atlanta. Gold was born in Greenville, SC, but moved to Brooklyn in New York ]when she was 2 years old. After graduating from Adelphi University with a BA in Speech and Drama with a minor in Art, she headed south to Atlanta with her husband Donald, and their three young children. 

Philanthropist and curator Fay Gold. Provided.

In 1968, Gold opened the Fay Gold School of Art in her backyard studio and taught 60 students drawing and oil painting week after week for 15 years. She began collecting pop art and took her art students on art tours of New York City and Washington, D.C. which inspired her to open her own gallery here in Atlanta.

The Fay Gold Gallery opened in 1980 with an inaugural exhibition of works by George Segal and in the years that followed she featured notable artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Cindy Sherman, Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Katz, Keith Haring, Irving Penn, Andres Serrano, and Robert Mapplethorpe. It was considered one of the top galleries in the nation for nearly 30 years. 

By bringing well-known New York artists to Atlanta for these exhibitions, she helped to put the Atlanta art scene on the map. And that legacy was only magnified by her support of Atlanta artists who have since gone on to become some of the most successful artists in the city in recent memory. Artists such as Radcliffe Bailey, Cynthia Knapp, Paige Harvey, Rana Rochat, and Michael Barringer were helped along the way by Gold’s support and encouragement. 

In her career, Gold also received the first Big Thinker Award from the Brain Injury Association of Georgia in 1999, the Israel Bond Award at Temple Sinai, raised $750,000 for The Elton John Aids Foundation through auctions, and curated the formative years of Elton John’s now legendary art collection. 

Gold served on the boards of SCAD and The Louise Nevelson Foundation, as well as participating in the International Woman’s Forum. She exhibited art at prestigious art fairs in New York City, Miami, Chicago, Paris, London, and Madrid, which had a great impact in bringing global awareness to Atlanta’s incredible art scene. 

She opted to close the Fay Gold Gallery in 2009 and has since focused on growing a private art consulting business. That same year, the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center recognized Gold’s contributions to the local art scene when they named her the first recipient of The Nexus Award and honored her with a tribute event in celebration of her commitment to supporting contemporary artists. 

L-R, Paula Wallace, President and Founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, with Fay Gold and Anita Thomas.  Photograph by Bob Mahoney.

The Art is Gold Gala will commence at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Woodruff Art Center Galleria. Kicking off the event is a silent auction full of works donated to the cause by some of the artists whose careers were pioneered by Gold. At 7 p.m., guests will enjoy a delectable dinner and entertainment by SCAD’s own Bee Sharps.

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.